Now that the Merry Marvel Bullpen has finally fixed Spider-Man’s broken timeline, superstar creators like Bob Gale can bring us thrilling tales that the old status quo’s constraints made impossible – like the Enforcers in bumper cars!! In all seriousness, this cover could have been an instant classic, but the text ruins it. Why couldn’t they let the absurdity of the image speak for itself?

I’m gonna judge a book by its cover this time, because pummeling the reader over the head instead of just telling the story is a running theme in

“So Spider-Man Walks Into A Bar And…”
WRITER: Bob Gale
PENCILS: Mike McKone
INKS: Marlo Alquiza
COLORS: Jeromy Cox & Antonio Fabela

Read the full review and leave a comment!

The Bar With No Name’s villainous patrons jump Spider-Man, but the bartender breaks up the brawl and tells Spidey where the Bookie lives. Our hero arrives at the house but only finds the Bookie’s father, Lester, who claims the Enforcers kidnapped his son because of his scam from last issue. Lester lets on that his son might know something about the Spider-Tracer Killings.

They swing over to Coney Island, where the Enforcers are tormenting the Bookie with the amusements. After a brief fight, the Enforcers surrender, but Lester accidentally reveals that he took bets on his own son’s rescue. Spider-Man makes the old man promise to donate his earnings to Aunt May’s soup kitchen. Also, the Bookie gives Spidey a lead on Tracer Killer: the tracers were planted on “victims” who had already died of natural causes.

Saying this was Bob Gale’s best story is like saying vegetarianism was Hitler’s best character trait — it’s true, but it doesn’t earn him many points. A lot of fans, myself included, liked Gale’s previous issue, but that just means he’s batting one for six. #563 reemphasizes all of Gale’s annoying proclivities.

Gale annoyance #1: Boring stories. 563 basically tells the same story as 562: someone takes bets on a fixed Spider-Man fight, only this time it’s Lester Ladue instead of the Bookie. Gale should have developed the barroom brawl aspect more instead. Folks looking forward to an exciting fight against a bar full of villains will be disappointed to learn that, since none of them use their powers, it may as well have been a bar full of regular goons. Some might enjoy trying to name all the obscure z-listers, but what’s the point when they’re all just glorified props? The Tracer Killer clues only slightly mitigate this chapter’s irrelevance.

Gale annoyance #2: Dialogue. This marks the second time Gale’s Spider-Man teases a villain’s lack of witty dialogue. That quip must really tickle Bob for him to repeat it, but it just isn’t funny when the reader can’t distinguish the intentionally bad lines from everything else written by the crown prince of awful dialogue. An example: right before a roller coaster called “The Lightning” hits Spider-Man, the webhead says, “this gives new meaning to being hit by lightening!” Now that’s wit!

Gale annoyance #3: Belabored moralizing. Even the Freak arc’s anti-drug didacticism felt less tedious than this arc’s anti-smoking and anti-gambling messages. I love it when authors make moral points through stories (otherwise I would’ve hated Straczynski’s run), but not when they feel the need to talk down to their audience. How many times in one issue do we need to read that smoking gives one “tobacco breath” before we get the point?

Gale annoyance #4: Slapdash fourth wall breaking. A scene in which Aunt May’s pepper stew magically cures a homeless guy’s hurt leg would seem strange and out of place, but a handy caption assures us that this bit will have “major repercussions in the future.” Gale is so incapable of making the scene intriguing on its own merits that he has to break the fourth wall to TELL US how important it is.

Don’t mistake these criticisms for me saying that I hate this issue; I don’t. The writing isn’t terrible, just terribly mediocre, and you can buy it knowing you’ll read a more-or-less competent Spider-Man adventure. However, mere competence isn’t enough when a series demands a thrice-monthly commitment from its readers. Mediocrity, even in offbeat filler stories, is unacceptable.

2.5 webheads out of 5. Take it or leave it, really. At least the art looks good.


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